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Date archive for: October 2009

The Playdate Secret

I’m a big fan of the Cheap Trick: the itty bitty effort that packs an impressive punch. The trifling gesture that draws the sort of “ooh”s and “ahh”s you never have, and never will, deserve.

But I’ve mastered so few of them. I can’t make a three-ingredient crowd-wowing cake, or sweep my hair into a head-turning up-do with the flick of a wrist. I’ve never even figured out how to rock those cool ribbon embellishments atop a wrapped present.

I have one great trick, though. And to make up for the undue kudos it nets me, I’m going to share it with you.

The next time a friend complains of being overtired, overwhelmed, and over-worked, put your hand on her shoulder and say, “Why don’t you drop your kids at my house this afternoon for a play date, and take a few hours for yourself?”

And say it like you mean it. Like the idea doesn’t terrify you. Because here’s the crazy thing, the dirty little secret about having other children over to your house: It’s actually easier than not having them.

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Doing the Right Thing

They say guilt is a great motivator, but I’m unconvinced. If it were true — if disgrace and penitence could spur a gal to stand up and set things right — then I wouldn’t be lying here, curled around my atrophying wallet in a shade-grown, grass-fed, phosphate-free paralysis.

I’m lame with eco-shame.

Do I read too much? Do I pay too much attention? Am I the only one confused and incapacitated by knowing the fiendish ways that every product on the market will impact our health, environment, and the progress of global human rights? Pesticides, PVCs, bioengineering. I’m afraid to consume anything for fear I might ingest E. coli, support sweatshops, or single-handedly deplete a rain forest.

I’m not one of those “let someone else figure out global warming; I loves me some Styrofoam” people, I swear I’m not. I’m conscientious-ish. I buy organic milk, free-range eggs, fair-trade coffee. I pack my kids’ lunches in re-purposed hummus tubs instead of landfill-bound, petroleum-based sandwich baggies. I confess I still don’t know what “sustainable” means, but I compost kitchen scraps for garden mulch. I even lease solar panels for my roof.

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Infernal Artwork

The women who guide my son through preschool are more evolved human beings than I am. They have unlimited capacity for appreciating his every tiny accomplishment, every endearing utterance, every minor scribbling, and random stroke of a glue stick.

They send home stick sculptures and pudding paintings, stencil sketches, and piles of scraps that he spent the morning snipping with safety scissors.

I make the requisite fuss at pick-up: “Wow! Look what you did! You’ve been busy! What a cool … submarine-dog?” But stumbling to the car, arms full, I begin to panic. Where is all this delightful-evidence-of-self-expression supposed to GO?

I resent the mountain of masterpieces that amasses on my kitchen counter daily; there, I said it. Since sentimentality breeds clutter, I’ve tried approaching the problem with pure pragmatism, but it taught me this: The saddest eight words in the English language are “Mommy, why is my drawing in the trash?”

It’s true. I’m going to hell. But I won’t be alone.

“We have a daughter who is prolific,” Northern California mom Kat McDonald told me. “Anything left behind in the car I throw away. I usually have to shred it because our daughter will cull the trash.”

Some moms toss the stuff when the kids are on vacation. Jennifer Untermeyer of Colorado does it after they’ve gone to bed. “I feel a tiny bit guilty,” she said, “but it passes after a glass of wine.”

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Welcome to the Gun Show

I spend my life hunting for exercise in disguise — activities that will hasten my heart rate and tone my tail feathers without me much noticing. Too aggro for yoga, too wussy for … well, anything that hurts, I need to be tricked into fitness. I need it to just sort of happen while I’m living my otherwise delightful and not especially active life.

Which is why my friend Margaret suggested we spend a nice evening chasing one another around in the dark, trying to kill each other dead.

Margaret is not a scary person. She’s an erudite English professor and cookie-baking mommy who happens to have a jones for laser combat. For months, she has been begging me to join her at Motionz laser tag in Santa Maria for their weekly Lasercise night (wha … ?) and when I run out of excuses, I gather my up-for-anything gal pals Kate and Kalai and bite the bullet. Or rather nibble the bright red beam.

On the drive up, we giggle and snort as Margaret briefs us Spandex-clad suburbanites on Lasercise procedure. Clad in high-tech, sensor-laden vests and wielding bad-ass light-launching weaponry, we will do calisthenics then play back-to-back laser-tag games in Motionz’s two-story indoor war zone. The object is simple: Shoot people, and don’t get shot.

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Gloss of Innocence

I’m not a spiritual person. But now and again I go down on my knees to thank the Almighty Creator of Y Chromosomes for not giving me a daughter.

I do this when Miley Cyrus performs a concert 100 miles away for $70 per ticket. And when I drive past the perpetual line of impatient preteens at Pinkberry yogurt after school. And when I see a 12-year-old peeking out from beneath makeup so thick it would make Katy Perry blush. Even if you couldn’t tell.

With teen idols like Demi Lovato and Avril Lavigne rockin’ blackout raccoon eyes, how can a tween resist the call to paint her peepers and lacquer her lips? And how do moms decide when it’s okay to wear makeup?

“My daughter thinks we’re cruel for not letting her wear eyeliner,” says one mother of a 12-year-old. “She says, ‘Mom, all the 8th graders wear it!’ It’s hard. You don’t want them to feel left out, but you still want to stand your ground. I’m not walking around with some mod-looking makeup-caked girl.”

It seems there’s an unspoken but widely accepted cosmetics continuum.

“You start slow — clear lip gloss in early junior high — then maybe some neutral eyeshadow by eighth grade,” says a mother of two grown girls. “The idea is to make them THINK they are wearing makeup when really, you can’t tell.”

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